Popcorn machine purchasing advice: how to choose the right product
- The most important facts in brief
- If you buy a popcorn machine, you can choose between a device with hot air and one with a heating system.
- For smaller quantities of popcorn, a compact machine with hot air function is suitable.
- Popcorn machines with a heating system can produce larger quantities, but take up more space.
- A popcorn machine with a capacity of 100 grams can produce about 2 litres of popcorn in one run.
- Popcorn machines are very easy to clean; a damp cloth is usually sufficient.
The hit among snacks
Popcorn not only looks good at the cinema, but is also a popular snack at home. Whether it’s for a home cinema evening, a game night or a children’s birthday party: the popped corn is a hit. Although you can buy the snack ready-made in the supermarket, homemade popcorn tastes a lot better because it is freshly prepared and can be supplemented with different ingredients.
With a popcorn machine, snack fans can make their own popcorn in a short time – and with only a few ingredients. Usually all that is needed is corn, oil and sugar or salt If you prepare popcorn in a pan, you must always make sure that it is at the right temperature, because too much heat can quickly burn it. Often, large quantities of popcorn stick together. Making popcorn is much easier with a popcorn machine: because the temperature can be adjusted and the popcorn is moved continuously, it does not burn or stick together.
Popcorn machine with hot air or heating system?
There are machines with hot air and those with a heating system. Both work with heat, but function differently and offer different advantages and disadvantages.
Hot air popcorn machine
A hot air popcorn maker is lower in calories than a heated popcorn maker because it does not require any oil or fat. The machine’s electric motor drives a heating coil and fan that turns the corn into popcorn in just two to four minutes. After the process, cleaning is quick and uncomplicated, as no salt, sugar, oil or grease residues need to be removed. For sweet or salty popcorn, the user has to add the ingredients to the popcorn afterwards, which makes for a less intense taste. Since such a hot air machine is very small, it can only produce small amounts of popcorn at a time. However, it is ideal for small flats and single households because it takes up hardly any space. Buyers also pay less than for a popcorn machine with a heating system.
Popcorn machine with heating system
A machine with a heating system is ideal for making larger quantities of popcorn. Therefore, this variant is more suitable for families and events. To make popcorn, the user must first fill the machine with oil, corn and, if desired, sugar or salt. Various flavours are possible, depending on which ingredients the user puts into the machine. The heating system built into the machine heats the ingredients simultaneously. However, cleaning involves a certain amount of effort. Popcorn that is made and sweetened in a machine with a heating system tastes much more intense than that from a hot air machine. In terms of taste, it comes close to the popcorn you can buy at fairs and cinemas. However, a popcorn machine with a heating system is considerably more expensive than a model with hot air.
A fragrant invention
In 1890, the American Charles Cretors invented the first popcorn machine, which he presented at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. The device was a complete success. The Cretors company still manufactures popcorn machines today.
What to look for when buying a popcorn machine
When buying a popcorn machine, there are differences that buyers should be aware of. In addition to the type of production, the preparation quantity and time, as well as the power and size of the machine are also important.
The first decisive factor is how much popcorn you want to prepare in one run. Medium- to high-priced hot-air machines can process up to 100 grams of corn, which makes about 2 litres of popcorn. If you want to produce larger quantities per run, a popcorn machine with a heating system is more suitable. It can easily process 250 grams of corn into 5 litres of popcorn. Also consider how many passes you want the machine to make in a row. With some hot-air machines, the machine must first cool down before another run is possible. Depending on the portion size, this takes about 15 minutes.
A popcorn machine can take up a lot of space. It is therefore important to consider the dimensions beforehand and take into account how often the machine will be used. Hot air machines are smaller than those with a heating system and therefore take up much less space. They are usually 20 centimetres long as well as wide and 30 or 40 centimetres high. Popcorn machines with heating systems are up to 50 centimetres wide and thus take up considerably more space. If you have the possibility to store such a device without problems and use it frequently, it is worth the purchase. For single households and buyers who have little space to store the appliance, a small popcorn machine with hot air is more suitable.
The preparation time of a popcorn machine is usually between two and five minutes and depends on the amount of popcorn being processed. Even with machines in which the corn only becomes popcorn within ten minutes, the production time is not long. However, popcorn in the microwave also only takes about four minutes. The production time is more relevant if you want to make as many portions as possible quickly, for example at a children’s birthday party. This can be done better in a popcorn machine, as this allows larger quantities to be made in a short time than microwave popcorn. Note that with hot-air popcorn machines, the flavouring components still need to be added before the popcorn is ready to eat.
How much a popcorn machine costs depends on its heating method and capacity. If you want a very inexpensive machine for occasional use, you can go for a popcorn machine with hot air and a small capacity of maximum 60 grams. Such a machine costs between 20 and 40 euros and is more suitable for single households. A popcorn machine with a heating system is available for between 50 and 200 euros. The larger and more powerful the machine, the more expensive it is. Popcorn machines for the catering trade cost considerably more, between 200 and 2,000 euros. However, they are usually too large for private households.
Popcorn machines should have the RoHs certificate. The abbreviation stands for “Restriction of Certain Hazardous Substances” and indicates that the machine does not exceed a safe maximum level of harmful substances such as chromium, mercury, lead and cadmium.
Since popcorn machines are electrical appliances, the cost of electricity and the associated power of the appliance should also be considered. Popcorn machines have an average power of 1,200 watts. However, since they are usually only used for a short time, the electricity costs are usually not a factor.
A popcorn machine is not only exciting because of its function, it can also be a real eye-catcher. Retro machines that are modelled on those used at fun fairs are particularly popular. These are usually versions with a heating system. Machines with hot air have more of a modern style. Almost all popcorn machines are red, but nowadays you can also buy versions in black, white, blue or coloured.
Some popcorn machines have a measuring cup, which is often integrated into the lid and allows the corn to be measured out accurately. If the machine does not have such a measuring cup, it can be purchased separately. Another useful feature is a bowl to collect the popcorn so that it does not end up on the floor. An ordinary plastic bowl is also suitable for this purpose. However, popcorn bags are particularly good for birthday parties or other celebrations. They can be used to serve the ready-made popcorn in a smart and portion-sized way. They have to be purchased separately and are available in different sizes and colours.
The alternative: rent a popcorn machine
If you don’t want to buy your own popcorn machine, you can rent one. This is usually not worthwhile for smaller machines, as their price is less than 50 euros, but the rental price starts at 50 euros. A professional popcorn machine, on the other hand, usually costs 1,000 euros or more, which is why a rental machine is more worthwhile. However, accessories such as popcorn bags must be purchased separately.
Questions and tips about the popcorn machine
Both before and after buying a popcorn machine, different questions come up. Which corn should I use? How much sugar should I add? Which oil is suitable? And how do I clean my popcorn machine? All these questions are answered below.
How much sugar or salt should I put in my popcorn machine?
How much sugar you use depends on your personal taste. As a rule, you are well served with 30 grams of sugar per 100 grams of corn. For salt, the correct dose is much lower, 2 grams per 100 grams of corn is sufficient here. However, these are only guidelines. Just try out for yourself how much sugar or salt makes the popcorn taste best. For a slightly different taste experience, you can use other ingredients. How about popcorn and Snickers, for example? Simply add a crushed Snickers bar to the popcorn and enjoy the taste of chocolate and peanut. If you like your popcorn more sweet and tart, you can use sugar beet syrup. A little syrup is usually enough to sweeten the popcorn perfectly.
Which corn is suitable for popcorn?
When puffed corn heats up, the water it contains turns into water vapour due to the high temperature. This creates pressure inside the corn kernel through expansion. The pressure then causes the corn to pop. Whether the maize becomes popcorn, however, depends on its water content and the stability of its husk. Fodder maize used for animal feed is not suitable because the husk is too unstable and therefore does not pop. Therefore, so-called popcorn maize, also called puffed maize, is necessary to obtain the perfect popcorn. This is a hard corn variety that meets all the requirements.
What oil do I need for my popcorn machine?
If you have a popcorn machine with hot air, you do not need any oil. If you have a machine with a heating system, on the other hand, you will need to add oil, and you can choose from different types of oil. Sunflower oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil and coconut oil are well suited. The latter is particularly heat-resistant, but also has a very special taste that not everyone likes in their popcorn.
How to clean the popcorn machine again
The popcorn machine should be cleaned after each run. Only then will it be ready for the next use. It also prevents residues from drying, which makes cleaning easier. How exactly the machine is to be cleaned depends on its heating method. However, before you start the cleaning process, the machine must be completely cooled down and unplugged.
A machine with hot air is usually very uncomplicated to clean. It can simply be cleaned with a damp cloth. In the case of a popcorn machine with a heating system, the heating plate, which has become cold, must first be cleaned with a damp cloth. If there are particularly stubborn stains, these can be removed with a little washing-up liquid. The drip tray of the machine can be rinsed out with hot water and is often also dishwasher safe.
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